A decent tent is a good place to start. Your tent is the most important piece of camping gear you’ll need, and it’s worth spending money if you want something that’s going to last. A pop-up tent is great for erecting quickly but they can take time to fold back down, while inflatable tents are quick to set up but are heavy and require a pump. Go for a three-season tent if you’re unlikely to camp in the winter. I like a two-man tent, even for solo adventures, as the extra space is useful for your gear. Consider going one size up from what you might need – a decent height makes it more practical and allows you to kneel and change comfortably.
Renting is also an option. If you don’t plan to camp often, consider borrowing a tent from a friend, or rent from Tent Share, which matches you up with people who own camping supplies. It has everything from tents for kids wanting to camp in the garden to curated camping packs.
Invest in your sleep. Camping is a basic experience and that’s what makes it so joyful – switching off, winding down and enjoying nature. However, having somewhere comfortable to lay your head at the end of the night can be the difference between a decent night’s sleep and no sleep at all. This could be a great camping mat or something with more structure like the Helinox Lite Cot, which folds down light and is easy to carry. A decent packable pillow is often overlooked – my go-to is the Nemo Fillo.
Don’t forget the home comforts. The Jet Boil stove is a great piece of equipment – small, light, compact and easy to carry, it’s quick and easy enough to set up for a warm drink after a swim. A good cup of coffee in the morning always goes down well – I pack ground coffee and filters in a waterproof bag for my Aeropress Go. A spork (half spoon, half fork) is also useful, as is a pocketknife. I use the Victorinox Camper Swiss Army model.
A dry bag is a useful piece of kit. I like to camp near open water, so dry bags are a must to keep tech, kit and maps dry, especially in bad weather and in condensation in the morning. You’d be surprised how much of a difference dry kit makes to the camping experience.